Seeking to know Jesus and make Him known in Stevenage

What do we mean by safeguarding?

Part of our Safeguarding Policy

2.1: Safeguarding and theology

All organisations should seek to keep children, adults with needs and vulnerable adults safe; and to give support and welcome those who have suffered abuse. 

But because the Bible teaches that human beings are made in the image of God and are endowed with inherent dignity and value, the Church, above all other institutions, should be a place where safeguarding, and the care and protection of individuals, is more deeply engrained.  Since the Bible also highlights the fact that God’s eyes are particularly on the poor, the weak and the powerless (children and vulnerable adults), the standards demanded by God in his church are higher still.

However, we also recognise that the church is made up of fallen, sinful people, and that, as recent cases have highlighted, the church as a whole has often failed to live up to these standards.  To minimise the risk, we commit ourselves to participating in required training, completing DBS and other checks, and to following national and local procedures to help make our church safe. We recognise that despite our best efforts, abuse could still happen here, and we want to be vigilant in doing all we can to prevent it, and dealing with it swiftly and effectively, should it occur. 

We must therefore be a church where the abused, neglected and violated are listened to, understood and cared for and where abuse is not tolerated, ignored or ‘explained away’.  As Proverbs 31:8, says let us ‘speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable’.

We must be a church where those who have been hurt by abuse find compassion, and people ready to travel alongside them. We do this through fellowship, prayer and sharing God’s love for each of us.

We must be a repenting church that recognises past and present failures of the church and the harm they have caused, and seeks forgiveness from God and from those we fail. Such repentance should always lead to action and change in the culture and practise of the institution and in individuals concerned.

We must be a church where those who commit abuse are called to face human justice, hear God’s word of judgement, repent and believe the good news. We do this by being alert to behaviour or situations of concern and sharing our worries with the safeguarding lead person/rector and with the authorities as legally required.

But because we are church that preaches the cross of Christ and the forgiveness of God to all who truly repent, we are also open to welcoming past offenders who are sorry to have hurt children and vulnerable adults.  In such cases, formal agreements will be worked out with the individual concerned, the church and with the Diocese safeguarding team and any outside agencies involved. 

2.2: Defining safeguarding: across a continuum

Safeguarding is often seen solely as a means to prevent serious abuse.  However, taking that view effectively closes our eyes to the far broader range of circumstances where care and support is given and received, and to the safeguarding concerns that may arise as a person’s needs or circumstances gradually change.  For that reason, we look at safeguarding issues as part of a broader spectrum of needs and support. 

St Nicholas Church is a community who seek to demonstrate the love of God through kindness, caring and support for one another, balancing the rights of people and our responsibilities to ensure people are safe from harm.

Through friendship, acts of kindness and organised support, our church family offers a wide range of care and support to those in need, and these can be seen across a continuum. We are all likely to experience a range of support from a number of the different activities described in the coloured boxes in table1. The colour coded scale helps here because:

  • It identifies who is responsible for an overview of support given to someone.
  • It defines confidentiality boundaries for each of the different categories along the continuum.

It also reflects the way on which support services in Hertfordshire are based on a Continuum of Need to support different levels of need for children, families, young people, those with physical and mental health needs, vulnerable adults and vulnerable elderly people.

This all helps us recognise that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility.

Church familyListed ActivitiesPrayer ministriesPastoral team supportPastoral “plus” support Care and Protection

Table 1: Different levels of care and support across a safeguarding continuum in our church

Church Family

Sunday and other services for congregational worship; prayer; communion; teaching; fellowship and Prayer partners

Listed Activities

S. Club; Home groups; Men’s and women’s groups; Music group; Flower arranging; Cleaning; Catering; Little Lambs (mum and toddlers); School assemblies

Prayer ministries

Individual daily prayers; Prayer ministry after the service; Monthly prayer meetings; Prayer chain.

Pastoral team support

Includes visits to people in their own homes for social contact, emotional support and prayer. It might also involve arranging help with basic practical tasks such as shopping, providing meals or help with gardening.

Pastoral “plus” support

Circumstances beyond those above where members of the wider Church family or the Pastoral Team would normally help, but below that where adult or children’s services automatically become involved.

Care and Protection

Where external child, youth or adult specialist, safeguarding, protective or legal professional involvement is involved and St Nicholas Church contributes to the plans led by the specialists.

What that means in practice.

It has become very apparent that there is a significant gap between the Pastoral Care that we are able to offer and when statutory agencies for children, vulnerable adults and families need to become involved. Three things need recognition:

  • The term ‘safeguarding’ actually refers to a continuum, ranging from situations of very low risk or minimal support which families or individuals can choose should they wish to, through to very high-risk situations and where statutory services become involved regardless of whether or not people ask for help. The latter comes from health, protection and care services and are done so under specific legal duties; the former from church friends and the Pastoral Team, seeking to share God’s love in practical ways.  Safeguarding in essence is a preventative concept and so we need to avoid thinking that safeguarding refers only to ‘child protection’ or ‘abuse’ etc.
  • Church members, through their kindness and compassion, sometimes take on too great a responsibility and undertake tasks that should be done by wider family or professionals in a supporting role (e.g. home carers, schools, children’s centres etc). This can leave both the vulnerable person AND the Pastoral Team person in difficult situations, which we want to avoid.
  • As a church, we can inadvertently wait too long to alert services, (often because of our fears or our desire to help). However, local service arrangements are designed for ‘early help’; to offer support to prevent difficulties from escalating and seeking to prevent the need for statutory intervention where possible.

To combat these problems, at St Nicholas Church we use the term ‘Pastoral Plus’. This helps to identify problems early, to point people to local services and to avoid church members taking on tasks that the wider family or professionals should be doing.

This helps us to understand that safeguarding is a continuum of care and support, from everyone together on a Sunday, through groups and activities, through pastoral support to the signposting or referring to specialist professional services. These are all underpinned primarily by the Gospel and also by a commitment to safeguarding everyone.

2.3: Pastoral Care

We all need a little help from time to time. The vast majority of support comes informally through church family and friends and this is not the business of others. Sometimes Church family members need a bit of extra help and for this we have a pastoral care team. The pastoral team is made up of the Rector and named members of the church family.

Pastoral Care is the giving of spiritual, emotional and practical support to church family members who are in need. Pastoral support may be helpful in times of personal/family need or in times of spiritual questioning or growth etc.

  • Spiritual support includes things like prayers, ‘journeying with’ and pointing to resources
  • Practical support could include things like having a coffee and listening, making a meal and help with shopping.
  • Emotional support could include listening, comforting and being available to talk to.

Pastoral support of any kind never includes intimate personal care, financial activities, wills and legacies. Under no circumstances should a pastoral worker carry out their own investigation into social care needs, health needs or an allegation or suspicion of abuse. Pastoral workers should avoid doing the roles of professionals, even when there appears to be no other solution.

2.4: Pastoral Plus

Pastoral Plus is a term used by St Nicholas Church to explain the type/level of support offered to an individual or a family in times of greater need or crisis that go above and beyond the basic Pastoral Care, beyond that which Church friends and family normally would help with, but below that when adult or children’s services automatically become involved. Pastoral Care Plus does not have to be delivered by members of the pastoral team, others in the church may be more suitable and able. Pastoral Plus describes situations such as:

  • Where more intense support with a clear and specific goal is needed where the pastoral team have been approached for help/support. This may be short-medium term.
  • Finding information on services e.g. Citizen Advice Bureau, Age UK, specialist advocacy for an individual/family on a specific issue, attending non-statutory health appointments or a school meeting with a family in order to advocate/support on behalf of the church pastoral team or in the role of a church leader. (This is not where friends are just supporting each other as part of daily life).
  • Where specialist/statutory outside support would be helpful, but the person declines any such support.
  • Where a referral to care and protection agencies was made, but the referral did not meet the external agencies’ threshold for support.

In any such situations:

  • Any support that is offered must be part of a simple written plan that is held by the Rector and the Pastoral Plus/Safeguarding Lead
  • The Rector and the Pastoral Plus/Safeguarding Lead may ask for guidance from others in the church family on a confidential need-to-know basis. There may be no need for anything to be formally recorded.
  • It is important to be clear what the church is unable/able to do in terms of support.
  • The plan may be carried out by the pastoral team or by others within the church and may be longer term. Anyone involved in that support will be given information on a need-to-know basis.
  • It may help to record if there is a continuing need to ask family or extended family/professionals to address the worry/gap that the church cannot fill.

2.5 Care and Protection

Care and Protection’ covers the rare occasions where the law and/or Church of England policy clearly dictate what must be done. These situations are unusual, but as part of keeping everyone safe, we must recognise that ‘the unthinkable’ could happen to someone – or be carried out by someone – in our church.

Examples when a situation escalates from Pastoral Plus to ‘Care and Protection’, include where:

  • The Rector or Safeguarding Lead make a referral to statutory agencies such as Children’s Social Services, NSPCC, Police, Adult Care Services. (as required by CofE and Hertfordshire Safeguarding Partnership policies and legal duties).
  • Where pastoral support is given and a member of the church leadership attends a statutory health, care or legal appointment with a member of the church family.
  • Children Services, Adult Care Services or the Police have a statutory plan in place for an individual/family and the Church has a named role in the plan in any way.
  • Statutory agencies require the Church to provide information to keep an individual safe.

The role of the Church leadership or members is not to decide whether statutory agencies should or should not be involved. If statutory agencies are involved and an individual or family dispute statutory involvement, the Church may only signpost an individual or family to advocacy/legal specialist advice. Under no circumstances will the Church take on the role of disputing statutory involvement, although the church will continue to offer pastoral care as needed. In exceptional circumstances, the church may stand alongside a family, individual or group to fight social injustice.

In ‘Care and Protection’ situations a more detailed record of referrals, contacts, support and outcomes will be kept by the Pastoral Plus/ Safeguarding lead; and information shared with the Rector. Those directly involved in a support plan may be given proportional information on a need to know basis.

In defining these roles clearly, we can also be clear that the role of Church leadership and members and leaders is NOT to:

  • Unintentionally become a social care service.
  • Take on the duties of health, social care etc.
  • Take on the responsibilities of families.

The role of the Church and members IS to:

  • Offer fellowship and show love.
  • Pray for the situation.
  • Point people to those in the Church who might be able to arrange or offer help.
  • With consent if possible, talk to the pastoral lead, Rector, Pastoral Plus/Safeguarding Lead if you think the person or family could benefit from support.
  • Be clear on what we can and cannot do; what we must and must not do.

2.6: Things we don’t do

Personal Care of any church member (washing, toileting etc) shall only be carried out by a family member or formally authorised ‘carer’.

Finances: we do not help individuals to access or manage their personal finances- this is something family or professionals must do.

2.7: Support and safety where there are known perpetrators

When someone attending our church is known to have abused children, or is known to be a risk to vulnerable adults, the Leadership will supervise the individual concerned, following advice from the Diocesan Officer, and offer pastoral care to the individual.  However, in its safeguarding commitment to the protection of children and vulnerable adults, the church will also, in conjunction with Diocesan advisors, set boundaries for that person which they will be expected to keep.

If a known abuser or perpetrator of any form of abuse (against children, young people, or adults) turns up at church, one of the leadership team (safeguarding leads, church warden etc) will sit with the person during the service, explain they are welcome, but must meet with the Rector and others to agree a safety plan regarding their attendance and membership of the church and what (if any) activities they would be excluded from.

If a known abuser or perpetrator of any form of abuse who has or had a safety plan with another church, leaves that church and seeks to come to St Nicholas, a meeting with the Rector and safeguarding leads of both churches will be held to agree the next steps.  In such cases, external advice will always be sought.